Mao II
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Mao II

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  5,683 ratings  ·  311 reviews
"One of the most intelligent, grimly funny voices to comment on life in present-day America" (The New York Times), Don DeLillo presents an extraordinary new novel about words and images, novelists and terrorists, the mass mind and the arch-individualist. At the heart of the book is Bill Gray, a famous reclusive writer who escapes the failed novel he has been working on for...more
Paperback, 241 pages
Published May 1st 1992 by Penguin Books (first published 1991)
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Pulitzer Prize Finalists
11th out of 68 books — 50 voters
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Most Difficult Novels
184th out of 318 books — 1,377 voters


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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Don DeLillo is maybe my favorite novelist I would never recommend to anyone. Obviously, I don't mean he's not worth reading, but in order for his words to fulfill their collective mission in life, you have to read him the right way. Please believe me, I'm not some asshole who's saying you have to read him the way I do in how you interpret him or whether you like what you find, but you have to cast aside that "race for the finish-line" tendency we all have in us, and read uncomfortably close if y...more
Aidan Watson-Morris
I saw a photograph of a wedding conducted by Reverend Moon of the Unification Church and it was just lying around for months . . . a wedding in Seoul in a soft-drink warehouse, about 13,000 people. And when I looked at it again, I realized I wanted to understand this event, and the only way to understand it was to write about it. For me, writing is a concentrated form of thinking.

And I had another photograph -- it was a picture that appeared on the front page of The New York Post, in the summer
...more
Szplug
As with Underworld, the opening prologue—based upon an actual occurrence—of the mass-wedding of young and youngish couples of the Unification Church, held in Yankee Stadium and performed by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, is one of the strongest points of the book. DeLillo excels at such portraits set to the page, crisply and potently capturing the atmosphere of this bizarre and fascinating spectacle, with its ordered ranks of veils and ties, the regimented structure and candle-row colors that deli...more
Brad
I could feel DeLillo grappling with something important as I read this book, trying to deliver something profound, and that feeling made me want to press on, to see where he was going, even though I found most of his narrative a slog.

There were astounding moments. The funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini was gorgeous prose. The discussion between Bill and George about the power of the terrorist to affect change was tense and convincing. Karen's time in the homeless shantytown was poetic and always shif...more
Richard
I am a fan of Don DeLillo's artistic ambition and his want to address ideas more profound than simple character study. When Tom Wolfe wrote his diatribe against MFA writing programs and accused them of passing along a tradition of meaningless, nonempathetic stories rather than work that addresses morality and social meaning, he undermined his own argument with his own bare-faced self-promotion of _The Bonfire of the Vanities_, a work that may in essence have fit his own ideal but was poorly stru...more
Lara Messersmith-Glavin
I feel very safe when I read Delillo. I know I am going somewhere worthwhile, and I know that I can trust him to get me there smoothly and gently, that the time will pass and the journey and destination and details will all be taken care of. This novel is, by turns, deeply real and entirely metaphysical, an eloquent portrait of a small collection of individuals and individual drives and pains, and an entirely artificial means for Delillo to explore principles of art and meaning-making within the...more
Trevor
Jul 11, 2007 Trevor rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anybody
Shelves: literature
This is the only book I've ever read that I wanted to start reading again immediately after finishing it. I have read his description of two people watching the funeral of the Ayatollah Khomeini a dozen times. I wish I could have written that. The description of the mass wedding at the start of the book is also remarkable.
Lane
Maybe this is too well-written to merit only two stars. But mere technical competence shouldn't be enough for me at this point; there are also good unicyclists.

Much of the first half of the novel is taken up by pomo musings—poetic trains of thought about images on TV, how photographs are perfected by the deaths of their subjects, how they alter the memory of their subjects after death. There's also a lot about crowds: we see a sort of anxiety about collectivism experienced by Americans i.e. "ind...more
Dan
I once read an interview with DeLillo, where he claimed that he often liked to change or rearrange words in his sentences for the sound or effect it created, even if it ended up changing the meaning of the sentence entirely. For me, this just smacks of irresponsibility for someone held in such high literary esteem, and demonstrates his overriding pretentiousness as a novelist.

The characters in this novel speak without any realism, seeming to communicate only in profound aphorisms to pound home t...more
Hadrian
This is a Typical DeLillo - which is by no means bad. On the contrary.

First, I'd like to say that DeLillo's writing style is as ornate and expressive as ever.

This is more of a rambling discussion, a loose connection of thoughts on crowds, mass movements, the Unification Church, writers, New York, baseball, terrorism, and post-modernism. Sometimes DeLillo goes for multi-page conversations, and sometimes for little aphorisms which you can repeat to impress your friends and sound wise.

Again, the us...more
Nick
Much to my disappointment, I found this mostly a tepid underwhelming experience, especially after being captured and swept away by Underworld. To me, this seems to be a treatise on the importance of author and the novel. But the aggrandized protagonist came across as no more than a writer specializing in run-on sentences whom infused his work with an inflated sense of importance.

Of course I wouldn't have finished it if there was nothing redeeming. I love Delillo's understated yet powerful prose...more
Drew
DeLillo has always been good at capturing the way people actually talk -- syntax, cadence, etc.-- but his characters don't usually say things normal people say. They are always totally self-aware and generally pretty intelligent. They understand the psycho-socio-philosophical implications of lighting a cigarette; they get the significance of a half-second pause in a conversation. They can read each others' minds, finish each others' sentences. And this can be distracting, can take you right out...more
Alan Chen
I really like the way the novel began: Bill is a reclusive writer a la J.D. Salinger, Scott his uber fan turn secretary and Karen the ex-moonie are 3 people who live together and are interdependent upon each other. Their back stories are fleshed out when Brita comes to photograph the author. It begins with Delillo's usual quirkiness but seems to go in a traditional narrative where the story expands as we get to know the characters and we develop a sense of who these people are. Then, in a little...more
Mark Sacha
The most simple way to read DeLillo is to approach his characters' prophecies as direct addresses to the reader, statements made on the meaning of the text in which they appear. Clearly Don intends us to take these ideas seriously, but I'm not convinced he wants us to accept them automatically. His major characters are often satirical archetypes - the media executive, the financial executive, the assassin, the college professor, and here, the reclusive writer - and the things they say, revealing...more
Adam Cherson
I rate this book a 3.53 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being best. Written sometime around 1990, this book looks tame in comparison to subsequent history. Nevertheless the elements present today are all there: the alienated individualists, the cultists, the idolators, the extremists, the capitalists, the observers, and the hedonists, all melding together to paint a picture of dimness. This is my second DeLillo (Underworld) and my sense is of a writer holding himself back, perhaps for commercial pur...more
Bogdan
I had pretty high expectations before starting it, as I have seen some extremely appreciative articles about him and his books. I expected a novel in the style of contemporary realism. Instead I got a novel full of interminable descriptions, lack of actual events and also centered on characters thoughts. Just the type of literature that I don't like.

The premise is hard to find. DeLillo probably wanted to write this novel in order to draw attention to several events from contemporary history that...more
Andrea
While this doesn't come close to Underworld or Libra, the ideas are extremely enticing. I'm ranking it with Cosmopolisand Falling Man. Ambitious and damn good but not great. Yet DeLillo is still and always an exceptional author for me, and hey, this may not be a home run but the ball is way the hell out there.
AC
I'm not a big fan of DeLillo..., he doesn't impress me.
Gabriel
Bill Gray lleva quince años escribiendo su tercera novela. Reescribiéndola, corrigiéndola una y otra vez y convenciéndose en cada oportunidad de que no está lista para publicarse, a pesar de que ya está terminada. Es un escritor de culto, enfermo, alcoholizado, con predilección por ciertas drogas, conocido por el aura de misterio que envuelve su figura —hace décadas que no se publica una fotografía suya— y por el poder de una obra breve, pero contundente. Vive en una cabaña a la que sólo se pued...more
WordsBeyondBorders

Images, both static and moving have been a recurrent motif with Don DeLillo. (In many of his works you have a character seeing the grainy images on TV with the volume turned down in a dark room) .In 'Mao II', he combines them with the themes of cults, crowds and creates a disturbing and unsettling work. Bill Gray, author of 2 acclaimed books has been living as a recluse for the last 20 odd years. Working on a uncompleted novel the whole time, never satisfied with his output, living in a secluded...more
Mark
Mao II is second book I have read of Don DeLillo's after White Noise. As with WN, most of the characters are rather impenetrible, larger-than-life characters who are all fascinating in their own rights. They serve to evoke thematic imagery and aver sweeping socio-political statements rather than to generate sympathy, and to this end, serve the plot well for this is a book of grand ideas: being seen and hiding, the formation and sublimation of identity, public consciousness, Mao-esque con-formity...more
Wilson
The final sequence of Mao II’s prologue explicitly states one of the major themes of this dense and klaedioscopic novel, “The future belongs to crowds”. The prologue, probably the most engaging section of the novel, describes a Unification church mass wedding at Yankee Stadium through the eyes of dislocated parents searching for their daughter in amongst the mass of Moonies. It is a thematic firework that echoes throughout the rest of the novel. Mao II is a book filled with crowds, from the walk...more
Melody
I finished the book this morning. I’m going to have to read it again. I admit I rushed toward the end. I’m catching a plane this morning and I didn’t want to take an almost completed book to read and no I don’t have or want a Kindle. I followed the plot. I loved the writing: his sentences that slowly trickled into my shower with me this morning. But I missed some connecting lines. Some dots were left isolated - not part of the completed pictures. Plus I keep adding and taking away star rating –...more
Jonathan
On the one hand, DeLillo would appear to care more about the sentence as an art form than anyone I can think of this side of Donald Barthelme (and let's be clear: Barthelme might have cared as much as DeLillo does, but I don’t think he could do some of the things DeLillo seems to do almost instinctively –– certainly not over the course of whole novels).

And yet, in the early stages of many DeLillo books you get preposterous crap like this:

"He wanted to fuck her loudly on a hard bed with rain beat...more
Holly
Jun 16, 2007 Holly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2007
I'm in kind of a DeLillo hangover, where the images and ideas are still raw in my brain, and they kind of hurt, but I am better for having read them. In Mao II, DeLillo delves into the world of a renowned author and later links him to terrorism, drawing a comparison between writers and terrorists as societal participants. He is also concerned with the crowd as a cultural function or force. DeLillo's cultural commentary is prescient and spot-on. His observations are unspoken universal truths and...more
Michael
What can you say? This is a good collection of situations and ideas. It might be the most digestible dose of DeLillo. (Most people would say White Noise, but this is more serious, however you want to take that.) It's not a great story, but there are interesting moments. The opening, set in a baseball stadium, is excellent, maybe even superior to the baseball stadium opening of Underworld, because it's less labored. Yeah, this might even be my favorite DeLillo. It's good to read him when you're w...more
Gregory Frye
This is a strange book. Valuable truths and insights. Existentialism before plot. Pregnant sentences before plot. Of course, you don't read Don DeLillo necessarily for plot, do you? Not to say there is no plot. You read him because he is a master of the craft, his sentences are whispers in your ear. In your heart. This is how good novels are supposed to be. With enough room for interpretation. Like a poem about recluse writers who don't want to publish anymore, terrorists weary of Western influe...more
elliot
hypnotic masterpiece. rife with single sentences that could stand alone as their own works of art. virtuoso dialogue passages, especially whenever brita is photographing someone--her instructions re photography are two-sided, first bursting from the texture in an accusatory way before we readjust and take them for what they actually are--mere instructions--the kind of jolting mindgames that a pillchopper and hermit like bill grey must play with himself every time he encounters a mirror. fitting...more
Conor
Feb 10, 2014 Conor rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
DeLillo’s finest work. No, seriously, it just might be. I’m looking forward to reading Underworld and Libra, and I have a hunch that The Names might be his underappreciated classic. But Mao II has it all.
Perhaps for the first novel I’ve read since White Noise, I feel for the characters in a DeLillo novel. Or at least one character, Bill Gray, the reclusive Salinger-esque writer who’s been working the same novel for twenty-five years.
There’s so much to this novel it’d take a thesis to get to t...more
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Don DeLillo is an American author best known for his novels, which paint detailed portraits of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He currently lives outside of New York City.

Among the most influential American writers of the past decades, DeLillo has received, among author awards, a National Book Award (White Noise, 1985), a PEN/Faulkner Award (Mao II, 1991), and an American...more
More about Don DeLillo...
White Noise Underworld Libra Cosmopolis Falling Man

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“The future belongs to crowds.” 242 likes
“He wanted to fuck her loudly on a hard bed with rain beating on the windows.” 103 likes
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